Yellow Jackets season comes to an end in elite eight

May 9—THOMASVILLE — After returning to the elite eight, Thomas County Central's baseball season came to a close at the hands of one of the best teams in the state of Georgia.

The Yellow Jackets traveled to Marietta to take on Pope, a team that challenged Houston County in the championship series last year and has made a habit of advancing to the final four over in the last 20 years.

Senior Eli Taylor took the bump for Central in game one and pitched a great game. Head coach Ryan Strickland called Taylor's performance "phenomenal." He held one of the best baseball programs in the state, a team that scores five-plus runs more often than not, to just two runs in the game.

Unfortunately for Central, they couldn't get the ball out of the infield. The Yellow Jackets were making good contact, but Pope's shortstop, who is committed to Florida State, seemed to stop everything hit his way. Pope took game one 2-0.

Game two saw Pope send out a right hander, who is headed to Georgia Southern. Central's batters faced pitches in the low 90's, but handled the heat well and racked up seven hits in the game. Central was able to threaten, loading the bases in multiple innings. Unfortunately, they made of habit of hitting into double plays and stranding base runners.

Pope on the other hand seemed to have the hot hand at the plate as they drove in six runs to complete the series and advance to the final four.

"Only one team at the end of the year is going to not lose, so to be one of the last eight in 6A baseball standing is quite an accomplishment," said Strickland. "There's nothing to be disappointed about, nothing to hang your head about. We belonged and they had to beat us and that's what they did."

Many felt that Central would take a step back after losing some seriously productive players, but the returners never gave up and this team actually had a better season, making it back to the elite eight and winning two more games than last year's squad.

The Yellow Jackets finished with an overall record of 22-15 and finished third in the region with a record of 8-7. Despite having played all of their playoff games on the road, Central knocked off St. Pius and Woodward Academy each within two game.

Coach Strickland had many kind things to say about this years senior class. This years senior Yellow Jackets are Eli Taylor, Lee McCorkle, Lawson Odom, Drake Singletary, Branson Gates and Marx Gaines. Strickland, of coursed, praised their hard work and skill on the diamond. But, more than anything else, it was the character of the group that Strickland seemed to be most proud of.

"It's probably one of the best groups I've ever had," Strickland said. "I didn't go home and lose sleep at night worried about drama or having to get somebody to act right, do things right or what not. They conducted themselves and handled business in the right way. They truly grew up, young men, a product of what we teach everyday. They went out and showed what working hard and buying into that process of the daily grind. The process of just becoming better people. If you become better people a lot of times results on the field are going to take care of themselves. They reaped the benefits of hard work."